I’m Jamal Ma’atouk from the western Damascus suburbs. I was born in 1959. My brother Nizar was six and I was ten years old when our father passed away. We didn’t get to live long with our father, so we were always curious to learn a lot about him. I remember me and my siblings sitting around my mother and hearing all the fun stories about my father, and also about how courageous he was.
He was serious, handsome and was never afraid to speak up. He stood against the Ba’ath party since the 1960s and the emergency law that continues to be present in Syria until this day. As the eldest child in the family, I always felt that I had to look after Nizar and my other siblings. Despite not being much older, I felt I almost had to be a father figure to them.
In the mid 1970s, the Ba’ath party was expanding by implementing its ideology into schools, which included membership and participation by pupils, but we completely refused to take part. Nizar’s passion in life was sports.. He loved playing football but the Ba’ath Party had always held our family stand against us. In a fair and just country, My talented brother could have been an international athlete.
The Syrian revolution started and for my family, it was a dream coming true.I wished that my father was there with us. We participated in the demonstrations and organized set-ins. My brother and I were detained in 2011 but we were released and nothing was able to hold us back.
Nizar was arrested again in October, 2011. I had hoped that he would be released soon but I’ve never got the chance to see him ever again. Nizar’s wife was pregnant and he never got to see his youngest child, who is now 10 years old.
As families of the missings in Syria, all we received was no information and we have lived through unbearable uncertainty. After four years of waiting, we learned about Nizar’s fate only through Caesar’s photos in 2015 when we saw his dead body in a photo posted on Facebook.
Today, I feel by telling the story of Nizar that I’m telling the stories of thousands of men and women who will forever be remembered for their courage and dedication to our country. As families, we will keep telling those stories, knocking on every door, showing our outrage to the world until justice is served.